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Something tasty brewing in the Falls

Bada Bean, Bada Boom. The Falls has got downtown coffee shops.

Sure, there are plenty of restaurants and cafes in the city to get a mug of joe, or even a cappuccino, but until recently the Falls had few venues that focused solely on producing the perfect cup, especially downtown.

Now, two coffeehouses, where caffeine is served in dozens of varieties, have expanded local options for serious coffee drinkers.

The family-owned Bada Bean Cafe and Coffeehouse, which closed last spring after a brief stint on Niagara Street, has reopened in a large Victorian home at 921 Main St., and the modern coffee icon Starbucks is in its first week of business at 300 Third St.

"I'm excited about both -- they offer something different," said Louise Yots, who owns the Park Place Bed and Breakfast. "One offers a homey feeling, where the other one offers an international feeling because it's known throughout the United States and world."

Yots said that in past years, she has sent guests who wanted to lounge at a coffeehouse to Lewiston, where there are several within walking distance on Center Street.

"When guests come in, they're looking for a place where locals would go, and it's a great advantage to us if a new place opens up," she said. "And Starbucks adds a great credibility to the community. It selects where it wants to be and it's a signature coffeehouse. People who come in from Europe will be familiar with a Starbucks."

Efforts to revitalize the tourist area downtown, as well as Main Street, are always boosted by new businesses, but coffeehouses are especially welcome because "they're a trend that's not going away," said Claudia Miller, president of the Main Street Business and Professional Association. "It's all about coffeehouses and places to get coffee. I'm thrilled."

The two new shops offer very different approaches to serving up caffeine.

The Starbucks, attached to the new Crowne Plaza Hotel, put all its employees through a two-week "barista" training before it opened Monday.

General Manager Don Wilke, who lives in Amherst and has managed several other chain restaurants and owned a restaurant, said people were trying to order coffee before construction inside the store was completed.

"I was surprised," he said. "We were already getting people stopping by the door. This was a highly anticipated thing in Niagara Falls."

There are 10 employees at the store now, although that should double soon. Some of the employees said they've gotten a lot of business from Starbucks faithful who say they work at the casino and surrounding offices and used to pick up coffee at Starbucks stores in Amherst.

A mile away, Falls native Debora Krieger and her husband, Vernon, who live above Bada Bean, say they were trained to use their Italian brass cappuccino machine by its Albany importer.

Krieger said a summer of scraping, painting and cleaning the new location was worth it. She said she had more business during her first few weeks than the entire time on Niagara Street. The cafe is in a home she painted periwinkle, decorated with old mirrors and includes a large handmade bean-topped counter.

She said many of the customers have been from local law and government offices.

Despite the different approaches, it appears the corporate giant and the local family have both proved there is a market for serious coffee shops in the Falls.

e-mail: gfranklin@buffnews.com

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